The crisis in Libya continues, seemingly with no end in sight and tragic consequences. Early on Wednesday, a boat carrying some 350 migrants fleeing Libya capsized in heavy seas and high winds off of Sicily, the Guardian reports. At least 300 are feared dead; Italian rescue workers’ efforts to find survivors are being hampered by three-meter waves and powerful winds. The migrants were from Somalia, Eritrea, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Sudan, Chad and Ivory Coast.
Said one of the survivors, 28-year-old Peter Ugo from Cameroon:
“The war is too much…they steal our property, steal our money every day. They try to threaten us to leave [Libya] or they will kill us. Or they give us guns to fight against Gaddafi. We were not able to face the fight.”
So far, approximately 20,000 illegal immigrants, most from Tunisia, have reached Italy this year. The swelling numbers of migrants from northern African are causing tensions throughout Europe, with France seeking to make its border impenetrable and Italy increasingly overwhelmed by the masses of migrants who have come to its shores.
Gaddafi’s Letter to Obama
Col. Muammar el-Gaddafi sent a three-page letter to President Obama in which he begged for an end to the NATO-led air campaign, calling it an “unjust war against a small people of a developing country.” He addressed Obama as “our son” and “excellency” and wished him good luck in the next election. The letter was sent to the US State Department and forwarded to the White House and reads, in part (as the Guardian quotes from the ‘rambling’ letter):
“You are a man who has enough courage to annul a wrong and mistaken action…I am sure that you are able to shoulder the responsibility for that.”
…”We have been hurt more morally [than] physically because of what had happened against us in both deeds and words by you…Despite all this you will always remain our son whatever happened. We still pray that you continue to be president of the USA. We Endeavour and hope that you will gain victory in the new election campaign.”
“To serving world peace…friendship between our peoples…and for the sake of economic, and security cooperation against terror, you are in a position to keep Nato off the Libyan affair for good.”
Gaddafi also referred to the NATO-led airstrikes as an “unjust war against a small people of a developing country” and claimed, as he has before, that Al-Qaeda is backing the rebel forces based in the city of Benghazi.
The US has rebuffed the letter, says the BBC. Commenting on the letter, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “Mr Gaddafi knows what he must do.”
US Congressman in Tripoli
The BBC also reports that a US Congressman, Curt Weldon, is now in Tripoli at the invitation of the Libyan government. The White House was informed about Weldon’s visit in advance and has emphasized that he is not acting as an official envoy. Weldon says that he intends to advise Gaddadi to “step aside” to pull his forces back from western cities under siege, and to suggest that the rebel forces not try to advance any further eastwards.
The Rebel Fighters, An Amateur Army
Both the BBC and the New York Times note that the rebel fighters simply do not “add up to an army” and that they are “enthusiastic but ill-disciplined, despite attempts by the few former regular soldiers among their ranks to try to coordinate their operations” and train them. It is, says the BBC, indeed,
a safe bet that after firing off their rockets and mortars in the general direction of the enemy, the same rebels will come charging back, unable or unwilling to dig in and take on Col Gaddafi’s better-trained troops.
The rebels, according to the New York Times, range in age from 18 to 60 and are students, laborers, engineers and businessmen. They are mostly visible as “groups of self-led fighters in cars and pickup trucks, who move up and down the highway to Brega, where the Qaddafi forces have plugged the road to Tripoli and taken custody of essential oil infrastructure.”
But can the rebels’ enthusiasm survive a drawn-out conflict and ground war in Libya?
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Photo taken in the city of Ras Lanuf on March 8, 2011, by بكة برق | B.R.Q